Richard Gibson is now comfortable calling his stable star Wellington a “sprint champion” after Hong Kong’s best speedster won the Group One race that was conspicuously absent from his resume.

Seventh in last year’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) from barrier 11, Wellington won this year’s HK$24 million feature from another gate from which, until Sunday, no winner had begun, thereby adding the Hong Kong International Races trophy to his two Chairman’s Sprint Prizes (1,200m) and one Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m).

Bogey barrier 10 proved to be a blessing rather than a curse for Wellington because, in what was a messy 25th edition of Hong Kong’s premier sprint race, starting from an outside gate enabled Ryan Moore to avoid the traffic that held up Zac Purton aboard $1.9 favourite Lucky Sweynesse, who finished sixth.

“He began very well. The pace was very slow for the first furlong and a half, two furlongs,” said Moore, whom Richard Gibson booked to ride Wellington after the six-year-old galloper’s regular jockey, Alexis Badel, sustained multiple injuries when he fell from Fantastic Way in a Sha Tin race three weeks ago.

“I was very happy that I was able to slot in close to midfield with a bit of cover. I was able to go when I wanted to go. It was very straightforward for my horse. He took me there comfortably. He quickly had the race sewn up.

“I wasn’t surprised [by his turn of foot]. His first run this year, he gave away a lot of weight and beat them. Obviously, he had an excuse for last time.”

The excuse to which Moore referred was Wellington’s lame right hind leg, which Gibson found after last month’s Group Two Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) in which his stable superstar finished sixth.

Gibson acknowledged everyone who had assisted him in getting Wellington’s Hong Kong Sprint preparation back on track and spoke of his sadness that Badel, who rode the speedster in each of his first three Group One wins, had to sit out number four.

Wellington’s jockey Ryan Moore and trainer Richard Gibson are all smiles during the Hong Kong Sprint presentation.

“We’re all part of a really big team, and Alexis Badel is a huge part of that team. I’m gutted for him today, but I’m so proud of the team of my guys … they had a lot of work to do after his disappointing run last time out. We’ve got a great vet team behind us, and chiropractors, so there’s a lot of people to thank,” Gibson said.

“All our energy has been focused since last year for this race. We chose to run two times, and we really wanted to win this race for Hong Kong and for the owners, who’ve been so supportive to me. He was my first owner in Hong Kong, so I’m delighted I’ve delivered him one of the biggest races here.

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“It’s fantastic for Hong Kong racing we’ve got horses of this ability, and of course, it’s wonderful to call on the expertise of Ryan, whose execution, once again, was micro perfect.”

Wellington defeated John Size-trained Sight Success by three-quarters of a length, with Caspar Fownes’ reigning Hong Kong Sprint champion Sky Field third and Size’s other starter, Courier Wonder – who was only promoted to the field after Lucky Patch suffered a colic attack and died midweek – filling the frame.

“You can’t call yourself a sprint champion unless you win this big one. We’ll keep enjoying the ride. We’ll keep looking after him,” Gibson said.